Has Covid-19 crippled the music industry, or will it help shape our future for good?
The current music industry is uncertain…but has Covid-19 been a force for bad, or has it enabled us to re-think the music industry for the better? Let’s look at this once in a lifetime phenomenon and see what it means for the future of music creators.
The cancellation of Live Performances
Firstly, let’s talk about the Live Performance side of the music industry. With the global music industry being worth $50 billion, the live performance side of this makes up 50% of the industry. However, it was this crucial part of a musician’s career that was most affected. As musicians base most of their income on live performances and events, it was a drastic loss to their income when most, if not all, of these live events were cancelled or postponed; especially during the summer months when musicians can make the most of their income due to the festival period.
But why was this such a gamble in the first place?
Well, musicians earn most of their income from live events because of the way the music industry has changed in recent years. With the invention of the internet came a wave of new technology which caused changes in the ways we consume music. That being streaming sites, first started by Napster and now most popular with Spotify. Music has become a commodity that you can listen to virtually for free, and with Spotify’s subscription model of business, this pays very little out to musicians per stream; £0.0028 to be exact. According to data from The Trichordist, an active movement which campaigns for an ethical and sustainable internet for music creators, sites like Pandora and YouTube are even worse, with Pandora paying £0.0016 and YouTube paying £0.0012 per stream. The best current site for music streaming, but still not able to pay a living wage, is Amazon, who pay £0.009 per stream.
“On average, it takes 343.5 streams to generate £1 and 2,947 streams to earn one hours UK minimum wage.”Infinite Vibrations
To add to this, major record labels earn $800,000 per hour from streaming sites and the tech giants that made these software’s also take a sizeable cut, leaving musicians in the fray. If it wasn’t musicians in the first place though, the record labels and the tech giants wouldn’t even have a business on which to build around music.
So why do musicians get the worst cut in this deal?
That’s a good question, and the unfair pay artists receive from streaming is something that multiple musicians and organizations have recently begun to fight against. This comes in the form of the #brokenrecord and #keepmusicalive hashtag and we fully support this. Infact Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall recently released a video explaining all this on BBC radio 5 Live as part of their “Re-think” series. Check it out here:
After a lack of income from streaming, this means that musicians can earn more of an income from live music than recorded music, so this is the much-preferred income stream; albeit just not during the corona virus lockdown/pandemic. Regular events aren’t seen to return until 2021, when even then there will be tight health restrictions which limit attendees furthermore limiting the revenue generated from ticket sales.
Although, we are starting to see some resurrection of live music. Prestigious artists such as Dizzie Rascal, Gary Numan and The Lightening Seeds have all signed on to play drive-in gigs. The audience will be completely restricted to their car and see’s live performances being able to adhere to social-distancing rules whilst being able to still take place.
This is all well and good for artists who have a big enough following and the funds to be able to pull something like this off, but what about the independent and unsigned artists?
Music venues in dire need of help
Well, this is where it gets a little dark… independent artists’ usual performance spaces, grass roots music venues, are facing a dire time indeed. Due to the lockdown, many of these venues have not been able to bring in an income are still facing rent charges by their landlords or brand businesses who own, but do not manage, the venues.
Recently, a 5-stage plan to re-open theatres and art spaces was released by the UK government to outline the return of theatres and art spaces, which went like this:
However, this has been unacceptable as it will still see many venues go out of business by the time step 5 has come around; cutting it very close and causing a lot of stress on venue owners.
“Only 17% of grass roots music venues were reported as being financially secure until July 8th“William Ralson
In response to this, the Music Venue Trust, a charity which acts to protect grass roots music venues, sent an open letter to the UK government asking them to deliver more support to these establishments. This included two calls to action:
1. A £50 million financial support package
2. A VAT reduction on future ticket sales
In reality, the music industry is not receiving the help that it deserves… the UK music industry contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and it feels like we are still trying to prove the importance of music to the government, besides the fact that people wouldn’t have mentally survived lockdown without the arts or creativity.
But you can help music venues to recover. In a video posted by the CEO of the Music Venue Trust on Facebook, he is calling people to send the open letter they have written to your local MP, in a bid to raise awareness of this issue and save music venues in the UK; and we implore you to do the same. Check out his video here:
You can also support this campaign by posting the #saveourvenues on social media.
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg for live performances, as the most major blow to this ecosystem is a new announcement made by Live Nation.
The controversy of Live Nation
Live Nation is the biggest music business responsible for live performance, ticketing and event management. They own Ticketmaster and generated $11.55 billion in revenue in 2019.
So, you can imagine that they we’re also hit hard by the impact of corona virus, but not as bad as the grass roots music venues or independent musicians. Live Nation can still survive even if they took a profit hit from 2020, the low-to-mid tier artists can’t.
They’ve released a change in their policy for live events in 2021. In order to protect their own assets, they’ve thrown musicians under the bus. In their policy changes they’ve proposed a 20% pay decrease for artists across the board. On top of this, musicians will be responsible for their own insurance and their own travel fees and the icing on the cake, if unforeseen circumstances cause the event to be cancelled, artists will not be paid at all.
However, in a drastic turn of events, Live Nation have now redacted some of these policy changes due to how they we’re boycotted by nearly every musician this was affected by.
“If artists weren’t treated poorly already, they sure are now.”Infinite Vibrations
Musicians have already been dealt a bad hand, in that they can’t earn a decent wage from recorded music and now it seems their most important income stream is also being taken away.
So where does that leave musicians?
Re-defining your music career and the future of the music industry
By now you’ve probably become a little fed up with the way the industry is treating musicians, and the impact of corona virus hasn’t helped one bit. But, if it wasn’t for musicians creating music, we wouldn’t even have an industry in the first place. So why is it that musicians are always the ones getting dealt the worst cards?
Day by day the companies which are sat at the top of the music chain are ripping off musicians and taking them for granted. From record labels doing dodgy deals with artists, to promoters who have a bad rep for not even paying artists, as well as the streaming services who pay next-to-nothing for the music that their companies are built on. Even now during corona virus, Live Nation would rather musicians suffered than take a profit loss themselves.
“We think it’s time for change… and now more than ever would be the right time to re-evaluate the way we think about the music industry.”Infinite Vibrations
We see the future of the music industry as being independent and we predict that in the next 5-10 years the independent music industry will grow exponentially, but we also think that Covid-19 has accelerated this underlying trend.
To bring about a change in the industry, you should think about turning independent. This is because as an independent musician, you retain control over your career and over your music, instead of a record label or a manager who might not have your best interests at heart. We’re not saying everyone is bad and if you want to be signed then you can be, but an independent record label or an independent manager probably cares more about your music then a stakeholder at a major record label. We’re saying that if you become an independent artist, you can get more out of your career.
On top of this, to earn a living wage from your music, you must consider becoming an entrepreneur; because creating music for a living is the dream isn’t it? This is a mindset and once you begin to see your music through the eyes of an entrepreneur, you will begin to open-up more income streams from your music career. Therefore, enabling you to earn a wage from creating music. For example, you don’t have to be the stereotypical celebrity musician to be successful, as there are more ways to earn an income from your music than just the Hollywood route to fame. Such as freelancing, teaching and livestreaming, as well as releasing your own music.
We understand that corona virus has been a negative hit to an already unfair industry. But we feel the pandemic has enabled us to highlight the issues in the music industry and provide an opportunity to adapt and make changes for a more positive and constructive future in music.
What do you think about the music industry? Should we change, or do you think the corona virus is just a blip in the road? Let us know your thoughts down below.
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